Episode 205 – Fresh Look: Parabola Linux

Posted by mary on August 24, 2016 in Show-mp3 |



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Total Running Time:

Un-edited Live session –

Recording from the Podcast Detroit Studios: http://www.podcastdetroit.com/event/sunday-morning-linux-review/

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Fresh Looks
Tips and tricks


Tony Bemus, Tom Lawrence, and Mary Tomich

Sound bites by Mike Tanner

Fresh Looks


This episode’s fresh look is on a Linux distribution that Distrowatch recently carried on its front page Parabola Linux. Parabola is a Free Software and Free Culture project aiming to provide a fully “Free” as in freedom GNU/Linux distribution: Parabola GNU/Linux-libre. which, going forward I will call Parabola Linux.  Parabola Linux is listed by the Free Software Foundation as a fully Free Software distribution. It balances simplicity, elegance, code-correctness and bleeding edge Free Software.

Due to a bios malfunction of my testing laptop, I resorted to using virtual box on GhostBSD to conduct my review. I felt like pioneer.

The Vitals:

Name: Parabola 2016.07.27

Maintainer: André Fabian Silva Delgado  and team

Distro Latest Birthday: July 27, 2016

Derivative: Arch Linux

Kernel: 4.6.4gnu

Review Desktop: MATE

Live Environment:

While getting to know Parabola Linux I discovered that there are three different “versions” There is the “Main Live ISO” which weighs in at 608.2MB and lets you install the base system. Configuration and customizing is up to you, apparently. Hmm, I wonder how this thing looks with KDE? Just kidding…I didn’t even try.
The second version is talking Parabola, which I downloaded, because I was curious about how it works. It is a respin of the Parabola ISO modified to include speech and braille output for blind and visually impaired users. Although I never actually installed it, Talking Parabola correctlyi noted my current directory as well as commands I entered, content of any directory that I changed to, etc.

The version that I reviewed is the Parabola Linux – Mate. One word of caution, however, if pink and lavender are not your favorite colors, plan on changing the desktop wallpaper immediately. It reminded me of a scene from a Disney cartoon. Aside from the wallpaper, the desktop has a very clean Mate look. Just four icons: Computer, Root’s Home, Parabola Installation CLI, and Trash. I was bemused that such a light and fluffy desktop—oops, I mean wallpaper—would even have anything on it that hinted of CLI. Hmmm…stealth-mode Linux.

When I booted to the live environment, I had to select keyboard, keymap, etc. If you are new to Linux, this may be somewhat confusing. Hint: look for anything ‘us’, if you live in the US.

The Defaults

Since Parabola Linux is GNU Linux Libre, only free/libre (as per the FSF) is included. This means:

Browser: Ice Weasel (although I have to admit that this summer, anything with the word ICE in it is fine by me)

Office Suite: AbiGnumeric, which should not be a surprise considering the goal of the software.

Mail Client: IceDove

File Manager: Caja

So on to the install.

The Install Process:

Parabola Linux initiates the install using a Bash script to generate a basic, Debian-like screen with a list of steps to complete, seven steps in all. And I am sure it’s no coincidence there are also seven deadly sins. How many would I break during the install? As it turns out, at least one. More on that later…

The first thing I wanted to do was test Gparted in a virtual environment. Oops, I didn’t have the Guest Additions installed and my mouse was not working properly with Gparted because of it. After resolving that situation, I was ready to proceed. Gparted allowed me to create three partitions successfully. On to the next step: 2. Install Base System.. The system churned in an expected way installing 134 packages. The display is a very basic, yet informative scroll of what is being added/installed. It appeared to successfully complete—at least I was returned to “the List” with no error messages or other obvious issues. I decided that the installer is not very intuitive because when the list of steps reappears at the conclusion of a step, it highlights step 1. So if you don’t remember the last step you completed, it’s possible you could repeat. Yes, I did install the base system twice, mostly to confirm that the behavior I just described was not a fluke…

I went to step 3 and installed Grub. Interestingly, the prompt install (y/N) did not wait for me to make a selection, like you will typically see when installing software from the command line. It just moved ahead with the install. I am sure the install script is set up to automatically assume Yes since that is what you selected from the list.

The next step was 4, System Configuration. Host name, “Enter Your Time Zone with one example (no friendly list of continents and cities to choose from. “Select Keymap” – us was automatically selected. Select locales- luckily, two were automatically selected so I went with them (en_US, UTF8, en_US ISO-8859). Select my language, the list is based on current selections. Since I had indicated US options, the list before me was very short. I went with the recommended option. Next was root password, then back to “the List”.

The next step was optional: install live DVD desktop applications. I decided to do that or my review would be ending early. Hundreds more MB were prepared for install. This step populated the application menu with the standard set of programs

The standard compiler, Gcc6.1.1-5, was installed but I also noticed that Clang (3.8.1-1), the compiler that FreeBSD uses also was installed by default.

Rebooted system…

Installed Environment:

Parabola rebooted with no problems, except for the “my little pony” background, which I immediately changed it to a picture of Jupiter. Ahh….much better. As far as desktop content is concerned, there isn’t much different between the live and the installed environment, aside from the speed factor and the missing install CLI icon.

Since Parabola is based on Arch Linux, it uses the same package management system: Pacman/Octopi.

I tested the package management system by installing both from the CLI and from Octopi. Both completed their task without a problem.

The system menu includes an Octopi repository editor. It’s very cleanly laid out and changing repositories is as easy as checking a box. It also allows you to make a backup of the repository configuration file or load an existing backup.

Arch’s well-known AUR (Arch User Repository) system is not available in Parabola for obvious reasons – AUR is a collection of community-generated packages/builds and automatically adding this repository would violate the spirit of GNULinuxLibre…and would probably get Parabola Linux kicked off the FSF list of approved libre distros. It’s not to say that you could get AUR set up in Parabola, but if you are going to do that, you’d be better off just using Arch Linux rather than Parabola, in my opinion. And if you have migrated to Parabola from Arch, you’ll have to manually remove the non-free ones, and there is a command to easily identify those programs: $ pacman -Qm

Some AUR packages that are libre are in the pcr repository which can be activated in the Octopi Editor.

Other interesting Programs:

Parabola did not come with a lot of what I would call “interesting” programs, just a lot of good basic programs. Abiword, Gnumeric, etc.

LinPhone – Linphone is an open source Voice Over IP phone (or SIP phone) that makes possible to communicate freely with people over the internet, with voice, video, and text instant messaging.

Linphone makes use of the SIP protocol (an open standard for internet telephony) and can be used with any SIP VoIP operator, including our free SIP audio/video service. http://www.linphone.org


If running a libre, Arch-based distro is your cup of tea, Parabola Linux is an option to consider.  Aside from the easily changed wallpaper and the less than friendly install sequence, Parabola was easy to use.

Tips and Tricks


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